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Published: Saturday, 7/4/2009

Five mayoral hopefuls mixed on pending police union contract

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Toledo mayoral candidates ranged from guarded approval to strong condemnation in their reactions to the tentative Toledo police union contract pending before Toledo City Council.

Independent candidates Michael Bell and D. Michael Collins, both of whom worked in the city safety forces, said the contract should be passed by council.

Democrats Ben Konop and Keith Wilkowski criticized the agreement as a short-term solution, with Mr. Wilkowski adding that it would not have his support.

Republican Jim Moody said both citizens and laid-off police officers lose under the settlement.

The complicated arrangement with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association was negotiated under Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who has urged council to ratify it. A vote is expected on Tuesday.

Under the contract, officers would:


•Have pay frozen two years and raised 3.5 percent in the third year.•Pay most of the 10 percent employee share of their pension contribution, which is now paid by the city, for a six-month period. Future employees would pay the full 10 percent.

•Begin contributing to city health coverage, up to $55 a month for the family plan.


•Delay taking overtime pay until 2010 or take compensatory time.

•Get a lump-sum payment in 2010 if city income tax revenue for 2009 end up being higher than $148 million.

The Finkbeiner administration said the contract would save the city $2.4 million in 2009 and nearly $800,000 in 2010.

Mr. Moody said the still laid-off police officers and the citizens of Toledo would be "the biggest losers" if the contract is approved.

"By accepting this contract, the professional politicians of this city will have pushed Toledo further toward the brink of bankruptcy, and the TPPA leadership has left a huge number of their members to fend for themselves, accomplishments both should be ashamed of," Mr. Moody said.

Mayor Finkbeiner has not promised to use the savings from the proposed TPPA contract to rehire 46 police officers who were laid off May 1.

Mr. Collins, a former city police patrolman and police union president who is now a city councilman, said he will vote for the pact, which has been ratified by the union membership. He said holding out for a fact-finder's report could mean delaying a settlement until next year.

"I don't believe the fact-finder's report is going to be any more or any less comfortable for all the parties involved," said Mr. Collins, who was president of the police union from 1989 to 1999.

But, he said, "the mayor must call the laid-off officers back to work now."

Mr. Konop, a Lucas County commissioner, called the contract "a Band-Aid" that will have merit if it spurs the rehiring of the remaining 46 laid-off police officers.

"The No. 1 priority now for city government is to ensure a basic level of safety. If this contract does that, that's a win," Mr. Konop said.

He said the contract doesn't address the city's long-term challenges of declining population and shrinking tax revenue.

"The Finkbeiner administration is putting a Band-Aid on the problem trying to get to the end of their term and pass it along to the next administration," Mr. Konop said.

Mr. Bell, a former longtime city fire chief, said the agreement accomplished what the city needed - savings in employee costs - and should be adopted.

He said the lump-sum payments that will come due in 2010 will be a concern if the city hasn't turned an economic corner.

"But they're saying there is a significant savings for the city so from that standpoint I would say the administration met its obligation to the people," Mr. Bell said. "It's just good the police have the negotiations done, both the city and police, so we can refocus on the safety of citizens. That's been a distraction."

Mr. Wilkowski, a former city law director in the early 1990s who oversaw negotiations with the city's employee unions, said the mayor proved once again that he knows the game of football: "He sure punted this problem to the next mayor."

"I don't think it's a very good deal for Toledo taxpayers. It doesn't put police back on the street, so it would not have my vote," Mr. Wilkowski said.

He said a problem with the contract is that some substantive provisions are temporary, such having employees pay part of their pension for six months. "It's a short-term fix and our long-term issues were not addressed," he said.

Mayor Finkbeiner is eligible to seek a fourth term, but has not said whether he will do so.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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